New Urban Peace Movement Survey Shows 87 Percent of Black Men Feel Unsafe When They See Police in Their Communities

April 6,2021


Tuesday, April 6, 2021


Press Contact: 

Bilen Mesfin Packwood,


New Urban Peace Movement Survey Shows 87 Percent of Black Men Feel Unsafe When They See Police in Their Communities

Violence Prevention, Access to Jobs and Stable Quality Housing  Recommended to Increase Safety

Oakland, CA —  Today, Urban Peace Movement announced a new survey that takes an unprecedented look at how Black men in Oakland feel about safety, with 87 percent of Black men reporting that they feel less safe when they see Oakland police in the community.

“Every day, in Oakland and across the country, Black men are over policed and not protected,” said Nicole Lee, executive director of Urban Peace Movement. “Mainstream and media narratives often ignore that Black men are the primary victims of violence, and this survey shows that investing in policing is not the answer as Black men feel less safe when they see police in their communities. It is time to invest in the strategies we know are proven to reduce violence and expand opportunity,  such as stable quality housing, living wage employment, mental health services and more.” 

The survey of 241 Black men, with 78 percent from East Oakland and 68 percent age 19-35, shows that: 

  • 88 percent of participants have been impacted by the criminal justice system in some way, such as being incarcerated themselves or having a child or parent who was incarcerated, or as direct victims of police violence. 
  • 91 percent have been directly impacted by violence, such as losing a friend or family member to violence, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence, or having been shot or stabbed themselves. 
  • 87 percent of men feel less safe when they see Oakland police in the community; police are identified as a threat and have a lack of understanding in youth development and communication to effectively de-escalate conflict. 
  • 68 percent of respondents say they feel unsafe in Oakland and 87 percent feel Oakland is unsafe for Black men. Their top safety concerns include gun violence, robbery, and housing instability. 

The men who contributed to this research are some of the most qualified experts on what makes Oakland unsafe and what solutions city and community leaders must prioritize to address these issues. In a focus group discussion on what they observe in unsafe communities, respondents pointed to a lack of access to healthy foods, gun violence, interacial violence, drug use and graffiti. When asked about the challenges they faced growing up in Oakland, one respondent said that “No one wants to see you win.” Many respondents shared experiences of childhood poverty that led to bigger problems for them and their families including drug addiction, neglect, and trauma. 

Rather than feeling safe because of police, respondents associated “violence” with law enforcement, which is largely based on first-hand experience. Other respondents associated white people with violence, with agreement that preferential treatment to white perpetrators of crime by police and media is another form of violence towards Black men. Black men are not afforded thoughtful, sympathetic or root-cause explanations in association with their circumstances.

“The violence Black men experience is a predictable outcome for communities challenged by systemic hardships of every proportion. Safety, like food and housing, is the most basic of human rights,” said Sikander Iqbal, Deputy Director of the Urban Peace Movement. “It is outrageous that a thriving American city like Oakland has prioritized police funding in place of the needs that Black communities have long demanded. Black men and Black communities are important to Oakland, and they must be supported to thrive here.”

Among the recommendations for how to improve public safety, respondents support replacing police with local conflict mediators and more investments in community programs to prevent violence, such as mentorship programs, education programs centered on Black history, as well as more psychologists, counselors and mental health treatment. Survey respondents also ranked access to jobs and affordable stable quality housing as top recommendations for improving safety. 

Their comprehensive recommendations include:

  • Investments in health services that address mental health and drug treatment needs
  • Services and organizations that work to eliminate racial injustice
  • Educational programs and opportunities
  • Creating a network of local leaders who have street credibility to be mediators of community violence and conflict
  • Accessible quality affordable housing and placement
  • Festivals and block parties that bring Black communities together

This anonymous survey was administered from January 4 – February 4 by Urban Peace Movement staff and community ambassadors directly with Black men from Oakland. 

Black men, who represent the most vulnerable population to police violence, violent injury and gun violence in the country, are one of the least represented in city governance and budgeting decisions. Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce commissioned this data and insight from those who have not been included in the conversation to inform how to dramatically shift resources to methods of community healing and safety. 

About Urban Peace Movement

Urban Peace Movement (UPM) builds youth leadership in Oakland to transform the culture and social conditions that lead to community violence and mass incarceration in communities of color. UPM’s model of “Healing-Centered Youth Organizing” supports young people to feel self-confident and hopeful while empowering them to work for healing, social justice, and a brighter future for all.